For the original LP liner notes, see It's The Talk Of The Town and Young At Heart.
CD liner notes:
The 1950s saw many significant developments in popular music with the style and quality of artistic performance embracing new sounds even where the song material was drawn from a well established standard repertoire. Against this background of change in the music industry arranger-conductor Ray Conniff was an emerging figure, destined to find great popular acclaim for his recordings made in the studios of Columbia Records. From his first album in 1956, ("'s Wonderful"), he signalled his intention to become a major force in the field of easy listening dance music. By the beginning of 1959 the unique sound of a big dance band blending with a chorus of wordless voices gave Conniff a leading position in the record album market and his jolly, infectiously swinging music had taken off in a big way.
The brilliance of Rays arrangements, the careful selection of well known standard songs and the immaculate interpretations by his musicians and singers produced a sure fire formula for success. Furthermore, there was still scope for fresh ideas that could vary the music programmes and widen the appeal of the basic Conniff sound. An obvious move was to let the talented Conniff chorus actually sing the words to songs, and, so with the production with the long playing album "Its The Talk Of The Town", the Ray Conniff Singers were created.
It had been obvious from their stylish contributions to Rays first 3 albums, "'s Wonderful", "'s Marvellous" and "'s Awful Nice", that the boys and girls had voices of real quality. With their emergence as fully fledged vocalists handling songs of distinction this assessment was confirmed. Putting them in the spotlight brought out all the superb tonal textures and delicate harmonies, qualities that are synonymous with the best of male and female voices in a choral setting. As if to give added emphasis to their new, forward role, Ray Conniff reduced the site of the accompanying instrumental group favouring a lighter sound rather than one produced by a conventional site dance orchestra. This move really helped the projection of the voices but did not detract from the pronounced rhythmic beat that had characterised the earlier albums, indeed, the percussive, free swinging feel underlining the Conniff sound was enhanced by the overall performance of the new combination. With no more than an enlarged rhythm section, plus a harp on hand, the singers could really stretch out.
The song selection on both albums is imaginative and memorable. Prom the opening bars of "Its The Talk Of The Town", you are aware that the music on offer is something special. Continuing through eleven more fine songs the mood switches from the reflective ballad to up tempo novelty. "Hands Across The Table", and "Deep In The Heart Of Texas", are typical of this range in the programme and as always there is that incisive, rhythmic lift. "Young At Heart" has long been my all-time favourite album by the Conniff Singers. Again, the roster of songs is superb and the same setup of singers plus rhythm accompaniment really does justice to an outstanding repertoire. The title song of the collection receives a beautiful reading and equally memorable are the performances of "Its Dark On Observatory Hill", (a little known but so evocative song), and "Harbour Lights". By the time the programme gets round to the concluding "Ill See You In My Dreams", you know that this has been a listening experience to treasure.
Still more ideas were to flow from the inventive mind of maestro Conniff in the 1960s but thats another story.
For the moment, lets savour the sort of great popular music that should keep anyone young at heart!
Brian Belton, The Record Centre, Birmingham
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